August 11, 2008
We were eating spicy spare ribs and Vietnamese noodle salad. At a BBQ. In pouring rain. The conversation went from the dire summer weather and China’s human rights record to how early is early to eat a curry.
I told everyone about my grandmother’s famous parathas or shallow fried, stuffed flatbreads. In my childhood I ate these as breakfast. Post my fruit and green tea deskbound breakfasts in London, mid-day is the earliest I can face these now.
Next morning, the weather was equally rubbish. Half a bag of carrots and 4 small radishes were lying aimlessly in the fridge. And the sack of chappati flour in the cupboard was well by its best by date too.
My love of kneading is well-documented. I rank it as one of my most hated activities, second only to standing in a blizzard on one leg. But the options were limited. And I didn’t fancy getting soaked again to top up the sorry contents of my fridge.
So I made stuffed paratha – gajar (carrot) parathas and mooli (radish) parathas for the first time. And I was pleasantly surprised with the results. It didn’t take long. The dough came off my nails fairly easily. And the parathas were as moreish and comforting as my nani’s.
Not just for rainy days then…
Heat the yogurt in a microwave for 30 seconds until warm. This helps break the four down. You can do this on the cooker also or just use room temperature yogurt. Traditionally, only water is used for kneading but my ageing chapatti flour could use the softening.
In a medium mixing bowl, add the flour and salt. Mix in the yogurt half at a time. Go in with your finger and mix well until the flour resembles biscuit crumbs. You want to keep breaking it down like this when you add the rest of the yogurt. Then add tiny bits of hot water, punching the dough with your knuckles on every side until you get a smooth dough that doesn’t stick to your fingers.
If it sticks to your fingers, you’ve added too much water so just chuck in a bit more flour. This part wasn’t problematic. Now keep kneading or punching the dough backwards and forwards for at least two minutes. The more you beat it, the softer it’ll be later.
Next, cover with a moist cloth (damp kitchen towel in my instance) and keep aside. Next, make the stuffing.
Grate the carrot and mix with the stuffing ingredients. Then cover and microwave or sautÃ© for two minutes. Repeat the process in another bowl with the radish and ginger mix ingredients.
Finally, uncover the dough mix and in your palms shape it into a thick sausage and break into four equal parts. Sprinkle a flat chopping board with extra flour, then roll the dough lump into a ball, flatten and use a rolling pin to create a disc the size of a small tea saucer.
Spoon two teaspoons of the carrot mix into the centre and bring the ends together like a parcel to seal it. Then dip the parcel in the flour, flatten and roll out into a even half centimetre round shape. Don’t worry too much if the filling starts oozing out.
Now, put a flat tawa or frying pan to heat over a medium flame with the tablespoon of oil. When the oil is sizzling, place the rolled out bread on top and fry for two minutes on either side until dark brown sport appear. If the oil dries up, just add a tiny extra bit to the sides of the paratha.
While it’s cooking, get cracking with the next dough ball and repeat until you have four, devilishly soft, moreishly tasty parathas. Serve hot off the tawa with a large dollop of plain yogurt and some pickle.